Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. When the late Jacques Helleu – artistic director of Chanel for over four decades – created the J12, unveiling it in the year 2000, there was no timepiece quite like it.
While most women’s luxury watches then were feminine, the J12 boasted graphic curves inspired by automobiles and sailboats (its name references the racing yachts used in the America’s Cup) seamlessly combined with an elegant chain-link bracelet strap. Its most distinctive feature? It was made of hardy, lustrous high-resistant ceramic – a novelty at the time particularly coming from a luxury house, bringing to mind how Gabrielle Chanel was equally radical in her introduction of jersey or skirt suits into women’s wardrobes.
The original J12’s all-black finish – a colour loved by Mademoiselle Chanel – was an equally rare sight in horology, only to be joined by an all-white counterpart three years later. If women today turn to sporty ceramic watches for their balance of fashion, function and cool (go ahead, wear it to just about anywhere), it was the J12 that established the aesthetic – and it’s remained a touchstone for it.
Through the years, its clean, versatile design has made it a canvas for the brand’s clever and often playful experimentation (cue these 2016 renditions that blur the line between timepiece and fashion accessory). As part of the watch’s 20th anniversary for example, a limited-edition version that fuses both black and white ceramic to form the case – a first-time, highly technical endeavour – dubbed the J12 Paradoxe hits stores this month.
When the J12 underwent its first major makeover in 2019 (yes, only last year), the visible differences were intentionally subtle – think a refined crown and numerals upgraded in ceramic – coupled with a new movement within. There was little need to overhaul it.
That, if you ask us, only adds to the timepiece’s beauty, so when it came to celebrating its two decades of existence the FEMALE way, we thought: What better way to than by keeping things “all natural”?
Photography Stefan Khoo, assisted by Alif Styling Damian Huang Botanical arrangements This Humid House Art department Gin Khoo
This article is adapted from the Sept 2020 Not-Your-Usual September issue of FEMALE.